Creating a mobile-first design for your website

Hands using mobile phone reading and looking at pictures over table with coffee and sunglasses.

As more people search the web and engage with brands from handheld devices, businesses must create mobile experiences that support the entire customer journey — from exploring products to signing contracts and making purchases. A comprehensive study of desktop vs. mobile usage by Perficient found that in 2020, 61 percent of website visits came from mobile devices in the United States. Globally, the percentage was 68 percent. There is no shortage of information and examples that demonstrate that if you want to attract, engage, and retain customers, you need to embrace mobile-first design.

“Mobile-first” refers to both design and strategy. It's an approach to building your website, apps, and customer interactions that lets you deliver the best possible customer experience on a smartphone or tablet device.

Key elements of mobile-first design include responsive page layouts that adapt to the screen size of a customer’s device, responsive methods of organizing information, and tools that create a better experience for customers who are shopping, sharing your content on social platforms, signing contracts, or interacting with your brand in other ways.

Why consumers love a mobile-first approach

In today’s digital world, mobile-first design is essential for the transactional aspects of your business, as well as for your brand’s online presence as a whole. By designing your end-to-end customer journey with a mobile-first strategy, you can gain an edge over competitors that have yet to do so.

Mobile-readiness can increase your reach because it can positively affect your social engagement and your visibility in search results. A mobile-first strategy can also increase conversion by making it easier for customers to interact with your business on the device they use most often, and it improves accessibility for people on larger screens who prefer larger text sizes and allows these users to easily access the same content.

By catering to the growing preference for mobile interaction, you can foster more direct communication and engagement with your potential customers — and ultimately keep your existing customers coming back.

4 essential mobile-first design strategies

Using mobile-first design, businesses of all sizes can enhance the user experience at every stage of the customer journey. With the right design tips, you can make a good impression and prepare for future visits, social shares, online transactions, and e-signatures at scale.

1. Review and update the on-screen appearance of your web properties

If you already have a website, apps, or web-based products, take an honest look at them. Are they performing at their best, or they could be serving you and your customers better? This isn’t just a one-time practice — you need to be prepared to update your designs as mobile technology evolves. New apps, changing mobile design trends, and integration opportunities with digital service providers — such as social platforms, ecommerce systems, and e-signature solutions — can all impact the longevity of your design choices.

Consider how your content appears on several types of screens. While some of your customers may be using mobile phones to interact with your brand, others might be using tablets, laptops, or other devices. You’ll want to ensure your digital assets are available regardless of screen size or type. You can do this using different elements such as clickable buttons, embedded social sharing options, or signature spaces on documents that are large enough to make signing a contract a breeze.

2. Restructure web-based products for mobile devices and apps

Assess your web-based products — such as digital subscription offerings, online tools, or interactive content — with the goal of improving speed and efficiency for your users. If you are a service-based business, consider how you enable clients to submit projects or request bids. By using digital technology to securely capture e-signatures — or wet signatures, if needed — on mobile devices, you can provide your clients with a more convenient end-to-end experience.

If your business processes include invoices or bills of sale, consider how you could design a digital document workflow that lets customers move seamlessly between desktop and mobile devices. With the right tools, you can give your customers the power to manage essential paperwork with electronic documents that can be uploaded with ease to any device.

3. Update your mobile support practices

Communication is key for great customer service. The good news is that there are many opportunities to create mobile-friendly digital communication and support channels. For example, you might explore virtual assistance or chat tools that offer immediate and user-friendly customer support.

Additionally, your company may consider reinventing other aspects of your customer service, outreach, or product training processes — especially if you can unify your messaging, prioritize mobile, and ensure customers don’t get lost if they switch from live chat to a phone call.

4. Gather feedback and test continually

Be sure to analyze the performance of your new mobile-first website and make improvements as needed. Use data that shows how and when customers engage, or where they leave your site or “bounce” back to a search result, to better understand the needs and wants of your prospective customers. By analyzing behavior and soliciting feedback at every stage of the customer journey, you can learn more about how users and visitors are engaging with your business online — and how you can better serve them overall.

Just as it’s important to monitor general trends in mobile design and device usage, it’s also important to go straight to your customers and ask them to share their experiences. You may not always be able to anticipate change, but you should be prepared to discover it and adjust your design and content delivery in response to new needs.

Experience and expectations

Today’s customers expect a modern experience, and that requires you to be mobile-friendly wherever your customers are. A 2021 Appnovation research report found that, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers expected brands to become even more responsive, transparent, and available, with up-to-the-minute updates on hours, product information, and more. It’s no longer enough for a brand to merely have a website. Customers now expect brands to be fully digital in the way they communicate and deliver services.

Whatever the size of your business, you can meet these expectations with mobile-first strategies that engage your customers wherever they are — and more often than not, that means engaging with them on their mobile phone.